UMN offers new kosher and halal dining options

New food options opened on Saturday in dining halls and are available in Coffman on Tuesday.

by Max Chao

Students no longer need to travel off-campus for food that fits some religious dietary restrictions.

The University of Minnesota is offering kosher and halal foods in dining halls as of Saturday. The new food options are the result of a push last spring from Jewish and Muslim student groups.

In addition, Coffman will offer several kosher grab-and-go items supplied by a local deli. The items include two salads and three sandwiches, said Jeff McKinley, resident district manager for the University’s food supplier Aramark.

In dining halls, frozen kosher meals and microwaves to prepare them are available for students.

Students can also request a prepared halal chicken breast in dining halls, and halal chicken is available at Cranberry Farms, a restaurant in Coffman, McKinley said.

The move is also the result of a Minnesota Student Association resolution passed in February.

“For me, this is much bigger than kosher dining, this was about the University taking a step forward towards being inclusive of everybody, no matter what they can or can’t eat,” said Benjie Kaplan, executive director of Jewish student group Minnesota Hillel.

Halal food includes any food that falls under specifications outlined in Islamic law and mostly addresses meat. Kosher foods include anything permissible under Jewish law, which mostly addresses meat and dairy.

“We knew that those specific constituencies were not happy with how their dietary restrictions were not being met in the dining halls,” said James Farnsworth, Campus Life committee director for MSA and co-author of the resolution.

The new options, which had been discussed between students and University administration for years, let those with dietary restrictions use their meal plans to buy food. 

Starting at the end of the spring semester, Aramark and school administration met with Muslim and Jewish student groups to find ways to accommodate diet restrictions.

“We’re extremely appreciative of the University and University Dining Services for both listening and hearing what the needs of different communities on campus are and that they actually are taking action,” Kaplan said.

While students appreciate the new options, Kaplan said he hopes to see more in the future, like a full kosher kitchen where hot food is available for students.